Following Ukraine’s call for more heavy weaponry, as the war rages on in Donbas, Australia has announced that it will be delivering six units of their M777 155mm lightweight towed howitzers and ammunition to Ukraine.
This support from Australia comes after the US-led defense meeting in Ramstein Air Base, Germany, led by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, which Australia attended despite not being part of NATO. Australia was one of the 14 non-NATO countries to participate in the defense meeting. The other countries are Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Israel, Qatar, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Sweden, and Finland.
“We need weapons. Modern weapons. A large number of modern heavy weapons,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said.
Similarly, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, directly pleaded with the Australian government to send them heavy weaponry.
“Send more Bushmasters, send more anti-tank and anti-ship missiles. Send harpoons [missiles]. Send whatever you can. Because look, time is very valuable here,” he said during an event in Canberra.
“We need some heavy weaponry – we need jets, we need tanks, we need productive vehicles, we need heavy artillery, we need offensive weapons. We need some real stuff. Long-range missiles, we need more air defense systems. We need it all. I’m sorry, we just need it all,” he added.
Canberra heeded Kyiv’s call by sending their very own M777 155mm lightweight towed howitzers, which can definitely help repel Russian forces as they try to completely “liberate” the Donbas region.
“The Australian government will continue to identify opportunities for further military assistance where it is able to provide a required capability to the Ukraine Armed Forces expeditiously,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.
M777 155mm Lightweight Towed Howitzer
The BAE Systems made-M777 155mm howitzers were initially developed for the US Marine Corps and the US Army. The M777 15mm howitzers were known for their highly portable system. They can be moved to and from various positions on the battlefield as needed.
The Australian Army has 54 units of the M777 acquired in 2008, so six units do not hamper their defensive stature by a large margin. These 9,000-pound guns have a maximum range of 18.6 miles that can fire a multitude of different shells, including conventional high explosive, precision-guided shells, illuminating projectiles, and smoke rounds.
It reportedly also has a two rounds per minute fire rate or five rounds per minute on rapid-fire. The Ukrainians will have to dedicate eight men to operate the weapon, but it can also be fully operated with a reduced detachment of 5.
It is known for being highly portable because it makes extensive use of titanium, which, compared to the M198 howitzer, has a weight reduction of over 7,000 pounds. This allows it to be transported by aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook, C-17A Globemaster III, and C-130J Hercules.
BAE Systems also has a mobile version of the howitzer, the M777 Portee. This variant utilizes an 8×6 Supacat vehicle for the howitzer to be mounted on.
Australian Assistance to Ukraine
The recent donation is part of the Australian government’s $26.7 million package, making the total amount of assistance sent by Canberra to Ukraine $160 million (AU$225 million). This amount also includes the $46 million it sent to Ukraine as humanitarian aid. Australia has also sent 70,000 tons of thermal coal for Ukraine’s energy supply.
“The provision of this additional defensive military assistance is in addition to the gifting of 20 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles, including 14 protected weapons systems, anti-armor weapons and ammunition, military equipment, combat rations, medical supplies, and financial contributions to NATO’s trust fund for Ukraine. This additional military assistance brings Australia’s total contribution to date to over A$225 million,” the Australian Department of Defense wrote.
During the first week of April, SOFREP previously reported that Australia had sent Ukraine 20 Thales-built Bushmaster troop carriers to Ukraine. These Bushmasters are known to be designed to provide protection against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), as well as shrapnel from artillery fire.
“Australia stands with the Government and people of Ukraine and calls on Russia to cease its unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine. The Australian Government will continue to take steps, together with our partners, to ensure Russia pays the highest possible price for its actions,” said a statement.
“The Australian government will continue to identify opportunities for further military assistance where it is able to provide a required capability to the Ukraine Armed Forces expeditiously,” Morrison said.
Photographs of the howitzers have surfaced online, with them being loaded into a C-17A Globemaster III at the RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland for delivery to Ukraine. This indicates that the howitzers will arrive in Ukraine just days after the Australian government announced its donation.